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542 Ratings

Imitation of Life

Directed by John M. Stahl
United States, 1934
Drama, Romance


A young, struggling widow and single mother takes in a black housekeeper and her light-skinned daughter. The two women start a pancake store which becomes a successful business, however they face familial, identity, and racial issues along the way.

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Imitation of Life Directed by John M. Stahl

Awards & Festivals

Academy Awards

1935 | 3 nominations including: Best Picture

National Film Preservation Board

2005 | Winner: National Film Registry

I persist in thinking this better than the Sirk version, not least because of its harder edge. Beatrice Pullman’s exploitation of her servant Delilah’s pancake recipe carries a sharp economic bite, and the brutal classroom scene yanks our emotions in many directions.
July 03, 2018
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Because the Depression was a far more progressive period than the conformist 1950s, [Stahl’s film] comes across today as considerably more enlightened [than Sirk’s]. . . . thanks partly to the skill of Claudette Colbert, the humor of Stahl’s version is much warmer and less cynical, expressing the more inclusive humanism of the 30s, when, as critic Manny Farber once noted, “all shapes were legitimate”.
June 24, 2018
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In John M. Stahl’s Imitation of Life, Louise Beavers finally had the opportunity to show her acting talent in a role that transcends the “Mammy” stereotype to form a profound portrait… Delilah can’t do anything to solve her conflict. She has to bear it. And Beavers refines her sustained low tone in a heartbreaking demonstration of impotence and endurance. She never highlights any gesture and, even so, she is always shining.
March 03, 2016
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